A photograph is all in the lighting

31 March 2013, Woodturning in practice, Would you like to leave a comment?

I really hope those visiting my gallery find the images both attractive and useful. Being able to capture the character, or beauty of something is difficult – whatever you are wishing to photograph.

It has taken me quite some time to get to grips with photography and I am still very much learning! Practising is sometimes made a little tricky, since the scene depicted in every image is usually a rather untidy kitchen, most days of the week! Books, general clutter, dogs and family members, all need to be removed if I need to take some pictures!

I’m going to be focusing on some of the different aspects of photography over the next few blog posts – this one is going to be about lighting. I’ve certainly had my fair share of pitfalls in this area and do hope that my experience will be of help!

I started off by using the cameras own built in flash, when taking my first photographs. This was never going to work, since the highlights in the foreground were always overexposed, with harsh shadows being cast into the background. I then resorted to using the camera on a tripod, relying only on daylight and unfeasibly long exposures. These were shot with a self timer or cable release and created rather underwhelming images. What I really needed was either a studio flash system, or some advanced flashes for the camera…

After looking at all the options, I decided to go down the mains powered, studio flash route. Although completely manual in operation, these systems are very reliable and will work on any brand or model of camera – if you never intend to work outside, a studio flash system is possibly the best option to go for.

I decided to choose the Bowens Gemini 400rx - this is quite basic in operation, but performs flawlessly. The two heads can be positioned at any location and are controlled by a built in radio receiver. With a bit of practise, shadows can be eliminated and really great effects can be achieved. For example, pointing the flash at the ceiling will bounce the light downwards, giving a very attractive and soft feel to a photograph.

Taking a photo of a photo! This is how my flashes were set up to create the image above…


I now pray for a dull and cloudy day for when I take my shots! – this may sound daft, but much better results can be achieved in gray and cloudy conditions. When the sun is out, you are competing with another light source, which can cast all kinds of unwanted shadows and leave bright spots in the picture.

Jonathan Leech

Written by Jonathan Leech

Jonathan Leech is a woodturner working and living in Cumbria. He specialises in making bowls, dishes and platters from local sustainably sourced timber. Read more or about Jonathan or see a selection of his work.

Your comments

  1. Gravatar of Evie
    Evie5 April 2013 05:32

    Wow that's what I call taking photos! Love the new work Jonathan, some really great pieces :)

  2. Gravatar of Jonathan  Leech
    Jonathan Leech5 April 2013 19:56

    Hi Evie,
    I'm so pleased you like my photos - those flashes certainly make the difference! Thank you so much for the comments.

    Best wishes

  3. Gravatar of Rachel Bramley
    Rachel Bramley4 May 2013 09:36

    Hi Jonathan
    Thanks for your informative blogs. I struggle with taking good pictures of my sculptures and have thought about paying someone else to do it for me, but this tuition page has made me consider my options again. Your work is stunning - it's always heartening seeing someone else who loves working with wood like I do.

  4. Gravatar of jonathan leech
    jonathan leech6 May 2013 19:31

    Hi Rachel,
    I'm so pleased my blogs have been of help. I've loads of suggestions to help with photography and you're more than welcome to drop me an email, if you would like some advice on getting set up - I'd love to see some of your sculptures too.

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